Monday is B.C.’s new Plastic Pollution Awareness Day.
Surrey and Rossland also received the okay on Friday to bring in restrictions on single-use plastic bags. The four municipalities follow five others in the province, including Victoria, which already ban single-use plastic bags.
Nanaimo’s proposed new rules are aimed at encouraging the use of reusable bags and will set fees for paper bags and for new reusable plastic bags. As of July 1, paper bags will be 15 cents each and reusable bags will be $1. Starting in January 2022, paper bags will be 25 cents and reusable bags $2.
Paper bags will need to consist of at least 40 per cent post-consumer recycled content and be labelled as recyclable.
Reusable bags for sale should be washable and capable of at least 100 uses.
Exemptions include small paper bags, bags for bulk foods and produce, wrap for flowers, and multi-packs of plastic bags.
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said pollution awareness day will bring “even more awareness and education around this important topic. We look forward to continue working with the community on all our zero waste goals.”
Esquimalt’s proposed bylaw is similar, with a 15 cent charge for paper bags and $1 for reusable bags. It does not include a boost in fees in 2022.
Municipalities must seek provincial approval before they are permitted to ban single-use plastic bags. B.C. is planning to change its regulations so that local governments can bring in bans without having to go to the province.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman said: “Dedicated British Columbians and forward-thinking organizations have made our province a leader in the fight against plastic pollution.
“We’re showing what can be accomplished when we work together to protect our environment and confront this issue head on.”
The Clean B.C. Plastics Action Plan is reducing plastic use and expanding the deposit-refund system, he said.
The plan urges manufacturers to take more responsibility for their products’ end of life and is working to develop better ways to recycle plastics into new products.
Society is becoming increasingly aware of the damage plastics do to the environment. More than 40 per cent of plastic is used only once, a B.C. government statement said.
In 2019, more than 340,000 tonnes of plastic items and packaging were disposed of in B.C., equating to more than 65 kilograms of plastic waste going to the landfill per person in one year, the statement said. Of the plastics collected by Recycle B.C., 98 per cent stay in this province where the support the recycling and manufacturing sector.
It is estimated that every year, more than 20 million tonnes of plastic waste enter aquatic ecosystems